Book review: The Emperor of Lies

The Emperor of Lies by Steve Sem-Sandberg
The Emperor of Lies by Steve Sem-Sandberg


Author: Steve Sem-Sandberg

Publisher: Faber & Faber

RRP: $32.99

THE story of the Warsaw Ghetto and its uprising in 1943 is well-known.

Less-known and perhaps even more chilling, is that of the town of Lodz, only 70 miles to the south-west of the Polish capital.

Swedish writer Steve Sem-Sandberg has meticulously researched this dark chapter in history to produce a brilliant work of historical fiction.

In the 1930s Germany left the community of civilised human beings when its leader, Hitler, began committing terrible atrocities against the Jewish population in his homeland and neighbouring countries, forever more a dark blot in history’s pages.

Businessman Chaim Rumkowski, a Jewish collaborator, ran the Lodz ghetto with an iron fist, controlling every facet of life with an army of assorted thugs, villains and Nazi-sympathiser gangs, adding yet more misery to the unspeakable conditions already existing. Appointed by the Nazis, he created a slave-labour camp in which his rule was law, with the ghetto becoming a major supply source for the German war machine. Children were forced to work making boots and uniforms for the Wehrmacht. Within its walls, Rumkowski even ran a newspaper, preserving his demented policies for posterity.

The author brings all the characters vividly to life. Through Sem-Sandberg’s richly compelling narrative, this story of heart-wrenching suffering and extraordinary evil is absorbing from beginning to end.

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